Ivory Coast striker Gervinho scored an 88th-minute winner to give the pre-tournament favourites a battling 2-1 win over Togo in their opening African Nations Cup Group D encounter at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace.
The match seemed destined to become the sixth of the seven played so far at the African Nations Cup to finish all square before Gervinho swept a Yaya Toure free kick high into the Togo net from the acutest of angles.
Both teams had chances to win the game after Yaya Toure put Ivory Coast ahead in the eighth minute and Jonathan Ayite scored Togo's equaliser just before halftime.
That was the first goal the Ivorians had conceded in the finals since 2010 after keeping a clean sheet in every match last year when they drew the final 0-0 with Zambia then lost on penalties.
Despite the allure of some of African football's top names and the glorious sunshine the stadium was sparsely populated with easily the lowest attendance of the tournanent so far.
Those that did attend almost saw a goal soon after kickoff when Togo talisman Emmanuel Adebayor stole the ball from his former Manchester City team mate Kolo Toure on the edge of the penalty area.
Adebayor seemed certain to score from close range with only Ivory Coast keeper Boubacar Barry to beat but he inexplicably decided to round the keeper instead of shoot when he had the chance and he lost control of the ball.
Yaya Toure was far more emphatic when his chance came in the eighth minute following good work by Gervinho on the right wing, who managed to evade two defenders before cutting the ball back.
Toure's powerful shot took a deflection on its way past Togo keeper Kossi Agassa meaning he has now scored in four of the last five African Nations Cup tournaments.
Toure almost scored a second in the opening half, hitting a post with a rising shot after 44 minutes.
The Ivorians largely controlled the match for the rest of the half by forcing Togo to defend deeply but their opponents were never out of contention, especially when Serge Gapke had the ball.
After setting up several chances, fittingly it was Gapke who took the corner that led to the equaliser just before the break when the Ivory Coast defenders failed to deal with his cross which Jonathan Ayite hooked home.
Togo's Vincent Bossou had a golden chance to put his side 2-1 up in the closing stages but his close range shot flicked off Cheick Tiote's head and over the crossbar.
Minutes later Toure's superb cross looped over Agassa and was met by Gervinho who was swamped by jubilant teammates after his precious late strike.
Bossou nearly made amends for his miss when his stoppage-time header was destined for the target before Barry flung himself to his right to keep the ball out with his fingertips.
In the second match in Group D, a last minute strike from Youssef Msakni handed Tunisia a 1-0 win over neighbours Algeria .